Marquette rebounded from a hideous start to their Elite Eight matchup, but Syracuse still entered the break with a slight lead, 24-18, as it took the Golden Eagles about 15 minutes of game time to crack the Orange's 2-3 zone.
Much was made of Davante Gardner's performance in the first matchup between these teams. The center hit all seven of his field goal attempts and finished with a career-high 26 points, finding the soft spot in Syracuse's 2-3 zone over and over again. He did the same in the first half, leading the team with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting and dished out an assist. However, the rest of the squad wasn't up to par.
Marquette would only manage seven points in the first 14 minutes of gametime, trailing by as many as 11. Despite their status as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the tournament — they shot just 30.5 percent from deep as a team entering Saturday's game — they attempted nine shots from beyond the arc, connecting on only one. They also turned the ball over eight times.
Syracuse's zone gave Marquette fits from the start. The Golden Eagles missed nine of their first 10 shots. After a stretch of play where Marquette missed a jumper or turned it over on almost every possession, the Orange led 18-7.
Then, Gardner began to heat up. He lived in the high post and finished with conviction around the hoop, sparking an 11-2 run that cut the lead to 21-18.
Since Syracuse also hadn't played particularly well offensively — they finished the half shooting 36 percent from the field, surprisingly struggling with a similar zone to the one they run — Marquette made it close. A three in the final minute by James Southerland, his second of the half, made the score 24-18.